Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Group provides free school supplies for deaf, hard-of-hearing kids

Samantha Joy Dillenbeck, at the Palm Springs Elementary School Program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, was excited with each item she took out of her book bag donated by the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.
Samantha Joy Dillenbeck, at the Palm Springs Elementary School Program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, was excited with each item she took out of her book bag donated by the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.

“Children who change the world need the tools to do it,” according to the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.

Founded in 2012, the group provides free school supplies and books to children who are deaf or hard of hearing “to ensure that they are prepared to learn and succeed.”

“We are a small but mighty nonprofit and we feel we do really good work for the children here in Miami who are deaf or hard of hearing,” wrote Victor Solano, president and founder of the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association in email.

Members of the group visited the deaf and hard-of-hearing classrooms of Gulfstream Elementary, Auburndale Elementary and Palm Springs Elementary schools in Miami-Dade County to surprise the students with new book bags and all the school supplies they need to explore, scribble, color, draw, calculate, cut, glue, read, and write.

“Students who are deaf or hard of hearing deserve a positive educational experience every single day they come to school and our organization believes that the only thing that separates children who are deaf from all other children is opportunity,” Solano wrote.

“With your help we can give deaf and hard-of-hearing children the same opportunities that we all want for our own children, and the tools they need to become the best that they can possibly be.”

For more on how to donate and get involved, visit


Author and teacher Yolande Clark-Jackson and her husband, artist and educator R. (Rodney) Jackson, recently spoke at the South Florida Writers Association meeting about their collaboration on Rocko Rocket: Rocko’s Big Launch. The children’s picture book won first place in the 2015 22nd annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Clark-Jackson, who teaches at Conchita Espinosa Academy in Miami, assisted a principle investigator for a NASA research project at Morgan State University in 1993 and 1994.

“It was an experience that helped to inspire the creation of the Rocko Rocket character,” she said in a release.

Jackson, a pop artist, designer and educator, has been exhibiting internationally with the Miami Design District’s Diaspora Vibe Gallery. In 1995, he found a broken basketball with the word “Rocket” on it and he turned the ball into a puppet.

For more about the creative couple and their adorable Rocko Rocket, the children’s book and a poseable figure, visit

Join in monthly writers’ discussions and meet authors and artists at the South Florida Writers Association gatherings the first Saturday of the month, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Pinecrest Library, 11000 SW 57 Ave. Meetings are free and open to the public. For assistance with writing and publishing, and to learn tips, visit


Read to Learn Books for Free is now holding a drive to bring new or gently used and loved books to children in our community.

Reading Circles also are held to introduce children to storytelling. At the first event, at Books & Books in Coral Gables, readers included Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason, Barbara Stein, Merle Wexler, Leona Cooper Baker, Carl Prime, Elissa Vanaver, and sister and brother Onelia Mendive and Armando Mendive.

Many residents attended and dropped off hundreds of books for the Read to Learn Books for Free book drive. Bins are in place in the store at all times.

The next Reading Circle for children will be 2 p.m. Halloween at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Be sure to bring books for donation.

Organizers now have 40 bookshelves full of free books throughout Miami-Dade County at places where parents and children visit together often. These include clinics and doctors’ offices, the Juvenile Justice Center and Community Service Centers.

The group is a program of The Children’s Trust in partnership with The Center for Writing and Literature @ Miami Dade College. The mission is “to get free books in the hands of children and volunteers are committed to restocking the bookshelves regularly, keeping them tidy and full of wonderful books.” To volunteer, visit or call 305-237-3940.

Anyone who is interested in hosting a book drive for Read to Learn Books for Free can write to Marci Cancio-Bello at For more about the Halloween event visit


Be sure not to miss the Southern Cross Astros’ next event to watch the late-rising Hunters Moon along with star clusters, the Andromeda galaxy, nebulas, double stars, and constellations.

This Star Party is from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at the historic Fruit & Spice Park, 24801 SW 187 Ave. in Homestead. Free admission. The Astros will bring their hi-tech telescopes for you to look through, and there will be moonlit tram rides through the park, and a big, white Arctic wolf to look at.

Bring a picnic or hot dogs to roast on the campfire and enjoy refreshments made from the Park’s fruit and herbs at a low cost. Call 305-247-5727 and check out for more on this volunteer group.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at